A Half-Million Self-Published Books

Last week was a week for new book publishing and selling statistics. On Monday, I reported on the Nielson book selling figures that came out for the first half of 2014. Today, I am writing about the new analysis of self-publishing in the United States conducted by Bowker.

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Bowker has released a new Report on Self-Publishing in the United States. In the report, Bowker analyzes the number of self-published titles from 2008 through 2013. Here are some of the findings in Bowker’s report:

  • The number of self-published titles in 2013 increased to 458,564, up 16.5% from 2012.
  • There were 302,622 titles that were self-published as print books in 2013, a 28.8% increase over 2012.
  • On the other hand, the number of self-published ebook titles decreased 1.6% in 2013 to just 155,942.

Interestingly, while Bowker is calling these titles “self-published”, the company is including small publishers in this report. According to the report, small publishers as a whole registered 46,654 ISBNs in 2013, placing them fourth among companies that registered ISBNs.

The top three self-publishing companies registering ISBNs in 2013 with Bowker were (in order): CreateSpace, Smashwords, and Lulu. CreateSpace registered 186,926 ISBNs—all for print books. On the other hand, Smashwords registered 85,500—all for ebooks.

These figures reveal that, for 2013, the growth in self-publishing came not from ebooks, but from print books. These figures compliment the Nielson book sales stats that show that 67% of all books sold in the first six months of 2014 were print books. Many self-publishers understand that it is still by and large a print book world.

Half a million books! That figure is staggering. Self-published authors and small presses produced half a million books in 2013! Remember, Bowker is only counting the books that were registered with ISBNs. I believe that there are many more books that were self-published via the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform that never acquired an ISBN (Amazon does not require an ISBN to publish an ebook via their KDP system). Afterall, a new ebook is added to Amazon just about every five minutes.

Self-publishing has definitely come into its own. If you are considering self-publishing, I encourage you to go for it. Many authors have found it fulfilling and worthwhile to maintain control of the entire process from manuscript to book to marketing.

The other thing these numbers reveal is that competition for books keeps getting stiffer. The more books that are published, the more options people have. Why should they choose your book? Now is the time to hone your pitch. Make sure your message is unique and lets your readers know why they should choose your book over all the other books out there.

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Print is Not Dead

Each year Bowker releases an annual report on print book publishing in the United States. Bowker compiles this data from is publication, Books In Print ®, which lists all print books assigned an ISBN number.

Bowker recently released a preliminary finding for their 2010 year-end report. In this finding, Bowker projects that, despite the growth in ebooks, traditional U.S. print title output in 2010 increased 5% over 2009. This 5% increase comes after a 4% increase the previous year for 2009 over 2008.

Interestingly, of the top five book production categories, only two increased the number of books published in 2010 over 2009 and these were both in the science/technology categories.

The top book production categories were:

Rank Category 2010 2009
1. Fiction 47,392 48,738
2. Juveniles 32,638 33,028
3. Sociology/Economics 28,991 26,904
4. Science 21,414 15,608
5. Religion 19,793 20,527

This report from Bowker should bring you encouragement. Here are two comforting points I gleaned from Bowker’s findings:

  1. Print books are not dead; in fact, they are still alive and well.  Print books are still being published and production of print book titles is still growing.
  2. Religious books are still in the top five category for book production, indicating there is still a strong market for these books. People are interested in spiritual things.

You can view the full Bowker report here.

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eBooks: Are They Poised to Take Over the Industry?

The question facing the publishing industry is not if ebooks will ever outpace the sale of print books, but when.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, recently stated that he believes ebooks will soon outsell print books on Amazon.com.

What does he mean by soon? Does soon mean within one year, two years, or a decade?

What exactly is Mr. Bezos basing this statement on? I believe he is basing it on the rapid growth of Kindle ebook sales after the release of the Kindle. Early last year, Amazon reported that over 10 percent of their total book sales were Kindle unit sales, just 14 months after the release of the Kindle. Mr. Bezos compared this to the 14 years it took to build Amazon to what it is today.

According to TechCrunch, Amazon recently released the statistic citing that for those books on Amazon that are available both in print and Kindle form, 26% of the total units of the book sold (print and Kindle) are ebooks for the Kindle. Mr. Bezos attempted to hype this statistic claiming that 35 percent of sales of these books were for the Kindle, but that was only if you compared the number of Kindle sales with the number of print sales for the same book, not the number of Kindle sales compared to the number of total sales units (print and Kindle combined), which is the more accurate way to report percentage of sales.

Amazon.com’s 26 percent ebook sales is only for those books offered in Kindle format as well as print format and does not take into account print books for the same title being sold elsewhere. I also suspect this figure is only for best-selling books offered in print and Kindle format.

I think Mr. Bezos is trying to hype Amazon.com’s Kindle and ebook sales through his statements, including the recent statements that Amazon sold more digital books than print books on Christmas day (who buys books on Christmas day?).

Remember, we still have not been given the sales figures for how many Kindles Amazon has actually sold. I don’t believe the industry is on the brink of the shift of selling more ebooks than print books.

Think about it. Yes, the number of ebooks for sale is growing along with the number of various types of e-readers. However, how many people do you personally know who own an e-reader like the Kindle? How many people do you personally know who have actually purchased an ebook? What about you? Are you reading more ebooks than print books yet?

Consider the recently released bestselling book, The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown. The Los Angeles Times reported that ebook sales had represented only 100,000 of the first two million copies of sold of the book. That is only five percent of total sales.

Industry statistics show that ebook sales currently make up somewhere from two to four percent of all book sales in the United States. Soon does not seem soon when you consider these figures.


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